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Posted in Family, food, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

Their Best

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12

It was our second trip to West Africa.  We were back on the dry sandy desert fringes of Niger doing a food distribution.  It was such a barren land made worse by an ongoing drought.  The people would do just about anything for food.  While we had prepared to feed many of the people, truthfully, we couldn’t feed them all.  So, families with the greatest need were chosen.  We would go to their villages the day before the food distribution and meet with them and do some registration work before the distribution.

It is hard to describe the poverty there.  Simply put, most of the people had nothing.  They had little food and little water but something amazing happened everywhere we went.  We would gather with the leaders and the people in their village.  We would give them a word of greeting and then they would greet us.  All of this, of course, was done with the help of interpreters.  After a while, we would complete the necessary paperwork and finalize details for them to come to main village the next day.  And then, it would be time to say goodbye for the day.

This was a repeat of the greeting we had done when we arrived.  They would graciously thank us for coming and we would graciously thank them for allowing us to come.  Then it happened…every time.  These incredibly poor people would present us with gifts.  Often it was some sort of leather craft decorated according to their customs and their people group.  It was such a gracious act of kindness and we always left feeling incredibly blessed.  They who had so little gave to us who had so much.

It was the last appointment of the day.  We drove and drove—it was more than several kilometers.  When we arrived at the site, we realized it wasn’t a village it was just a meeting place.  The people we were to meet were truly nomads.  Someone had set up a large tent made from skins and rugs to offer some shade from the searing Saharan Desert sun.  When we arrived, there was one or two people there but soon many more arrived and the area under the tent was filled with five white guys and a bunch of men whose skin was tough like leather and tanned a deep brown.  Then we really saw it.

In the middle of the tent and now surrounded by people sat a medium sized metal bowl.  In the bowl was what can only be described as dirty, brown water.  As I looked at the bowl you could see something swimming.  It was the larva from some sort of insect native to Niger. I assumed that perhaps this was for us to wash our hands though I was quite certain my hands were cleaner than the water in the bowl.  I would soon find out that the water wasn’t for washing.

Soon the greeting started.  We thanked them for letting us come and they thanked us for coming.  Then someone in their group made the presentation.  It wasn’t a brightly colored trinket…it was the gift of water.  And the brown water in the bowl wasn’t for washing hands soiled by the West African dust.  No, it was a portion of their precious drinking water. That brown water with larva swimming it in was what they drank every day, and they were offering something very precious to them—something they could ill afford to give.

Ordinarily, we would try and eat or drink what they offered, but our missionary knew, and we knew, that one drink of this water would make us very seriously ill.  So, through the interpreter our missionary explained that while we deeply appreciated their kindness and generosity, we could not partake in the water for that reason.  They certainly understood so the water remained throughout our visit. At the end we reversed the greeting process and climbed aboard our four-wheel drive for the long drive back to where we were staying.

The ride was quieter than normal.  Each one of us was clearly aware of what had just happened.  We all were pierced to our hearts over this act of immense generosity and the immense blessings that God had graciously poured on our lives.  Mission trips tend to do this to anyone who travels to a third world country.  There is always some kind of guilt over having so much while those you serve have so little.  But understanding God’s grace and humbly serving others at least helps.  But it always changes you.  It always marks your life.

In my mind’s eye I can clearly see the bowl of water all these years later.  I can still see the people coming through the gate after walking kilometers to get their food.  I can still see them trying to manage the heavy bags of rice and millet.  But something was missing.  Not one person complained about the lack of a vehicle to carry their load.  Each was just grateful to be able to eat that night.  And, yes, we were changed again.  I would like to think that a little of their gratitude rubbed off on us and that it still remains.  I know we will never forget those eleven or twelve days in Niger.

You don’t have to go to Africa, or Haiti, or Nicaragua, or London, or China, or Bulgaria, or the Philippines or wherever to serve.  Each of us are missionaries on a mission field and each of us can serve others…just like Jesus did.  One day He was sitting on a hillside teaching the people and He said, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” It really is that simple. It won’t get you to heaven…God’s grace and faith in what Jesus did on the cross does that. But it is an opportunity to be like Him…to love like Him.  It’s a tall order but don’t worry, you know that He’s got this too.  Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials

Journey with Faith & Gratitude

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

It was good…and suddenly it wasn’t. Yup…it was my birthday…not the last one but the one before that.  I was on my way to Cracker Barrel to have breakfast with three of my friends…and one of them was buying. It was snowing and the roads were ok but not great. As we neared the restaurant my Apple Watch vibrated and I glanced down and saw three words, “Help, Help, Help.”  Now that will get your attention.  The message was from my oldest granddaughter and moments later was followed by another short message, “I have been in an accident.”  Then for a few minutes things went silent.  While we knew she was on her way to work we had no idea where she was.

The message was sent through our family chat group so soon messages were flying but her end was silent.  We were frightened…we were afraid. A free breakfast suddenly had lost every bit of its appeal.  Only one thing mattered and that was a young lady somewhere who was in trouble.  Well, soon she let us know that she had called 911 and the police and an ambulance were on the way. Through a location service on her phone, we learned where she was, off, literally off, Interstate 57.  Her dad immediately was on the way and after a long, few minutes, was there with her.   Here’s what happened.

She was driving on the Interstate and apparently hit a patch of black ice.  Though going straight, the back of the car began to fishtail, and she went off the side of the road and down a steep embankment.  The journey was well over 100 feet and the car missed several small trees and ended up in a ditch at the bottom.  The airbags deployed and that gave her a mild concussion.  Her left leg was also banged up but amazingly she was ok.  When we later saw the pictures of the path of the car, it was clear that something Divine had happened.  Someone bigger than her was in control that day.

One of the most revealing things in the photo was a large and deep concrete culvert. The truth is if she had been no more than 50 feet further down the road, she would have dove, front end first into this deep culvert and the story would have had a different ending.  God, and I do believe it was Him, that day and in that circumstance administered a large dose of grace that averted a tragic ending.  His ways are mysterious and why her and why then is known only to Him.

Things like this happen all the time with all kinds of different outcomes but one thing remains constant.  For those of us who believe in Him and follow Him it is a moment in the classroom of faith.  It’s one of those constant lessons in life and a school that we never really graduate from.  The Bible says we are to walk by faith, and it also says that without faith it is impossible to please God.  That day God shouted, “Trust me.”  But there is more.  We also learned a little more about gratitude.  You see, I can say that it never occurred to me to ask God, “Why did you allow this?”  No, rather, the only thing that I could say was thank You, not for the accident but watching over her through the accident.  And, honestly, it was because of the accident I discovered again His watch care. Had she arrived at work safety that day, well, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought.

Faith and gratitude…two very important cobblestones that we need to learn to navigate this journey called life.  And as we journey, there will be times when it is easy to believe and easy to rejoice and there will be times when it seems impossible.  But remember, He really is a good, good Father and in this broken, fragile world He is still God.  Why He averts somethings while allowing others I don’t have a clue, but I know He is worthy of my trust.  One of my favorite parts of the Bible assures me that He can, He does, bring good even out of bad situations and for that I am grateful. I am still enrolled in the school of faith and one of our class mottos are three incredibly powerful words, “He’s got this.”  And…He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

The Last Part–the Best Part

Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” John 31:1

Some of you might remember Paul Harvey.  He was a radio commentator for many years and was particularly famous for his “rest of the story” stories.  He would tell a somewhat familiar tale and then add a surprise ending to it and conclude with, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

You might remember an Old Testament story about Elisha. Elisha and his servant were surrounded by the bad guys and from the servant’s perspective, it wasn’t going to end well.  Elisha asked God to open the servant’s eyes so he could see what was going on.  God did and the servant saw that the hills were surrounded with heavenly warriors and chariots of fire.  Things got better…quick.

So, the bad guys came down upon the city and Elisha prayed that God would smite them with blindness and boom–He did.  It sounds almost comical, but Elisha basically tells them, “You guys are lost…let me lead you to where you need to be.”  He leads them smack dab into the middle of Samaria…the Israelites’ stronghold.  And that’s where the rest of the story gets amazing.

Elisha then prays for the bad guys’ eyes to be opened and just like that—they were.  They took one look around and realized they were in very deep weeds. The Israelite king saw an opportunity and said to Elisha, “Can I kill them, can I kill them?”  I love this.  Elisha said, “No, you can’t kill them…that’s not what you do to people who surrender.  What you can do is give them something to eat and drink and let them go.”  I’m sure the king’s jaw hit the ground.  The “let’s kill them” plan sure sounded better.

Well, he fed them and let them go. Guess what?  We’ll let the Bible tell the end of the story.  In 2 Kings 6:23 we read, “So the king prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. Then the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.” Did you get that?  The bad guys weren’t the bad guys anymore. A little kindness changed the whole story. How about that?

If the king had killed them, there would have been revenge. They would have attacked and then the king would have attacked and on and on it would have gone.  But instead, a simple act of kindness broke the domino effect.  Instead of war there was relief–and peace.  In days when sides are still being chosen and tempers still flare—when hate and division are the new headlines and bylines—when no one trusts anyone—we Christ followers can and should be different.  We should be givers more than takers.  We should be lovers and not haters.  We should be like Jesus.

The Bibles says in John 13:1 “Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” Those “ones” He loved–included the guy who would betray Him to the crucifiers.  It included the one who would deny that he even knew Him.  How amazing is that? We can’t really do much about how people act, but we can do a lot about how we respond to them.  If the dominos are going to be interrupted, it will have to be us. The chain reaction is broken when we act like the One who chose not to retaliate but rather to redeem—to restore.

Some days it seems that a too short fuse has been lit and there is not time or hope to stop the future devastation. Let me challenge us today—during these crazy days that are getting crazier by the minute—to do the crazy thing and love, serve and care for others. Let me challenge us to be like Jesus.

How can we do that?  Well, first, as Jesus followers we are God’s kids and that is what He expects us to do. Jesus said we should be peacemakers—whether it is on the street, in the church, or at home.  Second—we can trust Him.  We can rest in Him because we know the end of the story—and it ends well—and no circumstance, no ploy of Hell can change that.  Third—remember, He’s got this—He really does.  Whether it is a resurgence of the virus or another revolting piece of news.  God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.  Sounds like a no brainer to me.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in birthday, Family, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Our Longest Day

Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9

It was a long day.  I can’t tell you how many times I have said it.  My wife, Judy, often greets me at the end of the workday as I come home.  She will say, “How was your day today?”  And sometimes I will respond, “It was one long day.”  Then there are other times, often on a Friday or Saturday, when the day seems to stretch on forever.  I get so much done around the house and yard and at the end, I tell Judy, “What a great long day today.”  Often the circumstances of the day seem to dictate how the day will be remembered and perceived.

Perhaps you are familiar with the date, June 6th.  No?  What if I were to add the year 1944 to the equation?  Well, if you have studied your history, you probably made the connection with World War II and you might have even remembered that was the day of the Allied invasion of Normandy, France—the beginning of the end of that great conflict.  It was a massive undertaking, and the outcome was never a sure thing.  But at the end of the day, and with great cost, the Allies gained a foothold on the European continent.  Someone there that day called it, “the longest day.” And it was.

All of us have “longest days” and yes, I know that the last several years may have seemed like a secession of them.  Sometimes those “longest days” cause us to mourn, but sometimes they are a reason to celebrate. For my wife and me, January 24th was one of those.  You see, on that day, forty-two years ago this year, our first daughter was born, and it was a long and exciting day.

Late Thursday evening Judy started having some consistent labor pains and when they didn’t stop, we knew it was time to head to the hospital.  When we arrived, they decided to keep her, and the journey began in earnest.  Judy had decided to have Rebecca without much intervention from medicine, so it was a challenging process.  By the way, if it had been me, I would have had every drug available to modern man.  We all know if populating the world was left in the hands of men—it would be a very, small world.

At any rate, the hours began to pass.  As the clock ticked the seconds, minutes, and hours by, it soon became apparent that this was not going to be a sprint but rather a marathon. All day Friday, I (her faithful husband) stayed by her side, encouraging her each step of the way.  Well, okay, maybe there were a couple of exceptions.  A friend of mine brought me a huge burger and fries which I dutifully ate while Judy watched—no, make that glared.  What was I thinking?  Oh, that’s right…I wasn’t.

The hours continued to tick by and soon it was evening and while things were progressing, Rebecca was determined to delay her grand arrival. Finally, at about midnight, Dr. Dickerson, came in to check on Judy and announced it was about time. I had the television on and one of those ultra-low budget Japanese monster movies was on.  Before long, the doctor and I were enthralled with the movie. So, while Judy was groaning in labor, the doctor and I watched as Godzilla ate up the known world.

Finally, the movie was over, and Dr. Dickerson announced it was time to head to the delivery room.  Coincidence?  I was allowed to go in and not much later, Rebecca made her grand appearance.  The baby was crying, Judy was more than relieved and crying, and I was more than excited and crying.  As it turned out, Judy had endured 23 hours of labor before Rebecca was born.  Oh, and when she arrived, she weighed 8 lbs. 15.5 ounces. What a prize!

For years and every once-in-a-while—even today we still talk of our longest day.  Well, actually it was Judy’s longest day.  For me it was burgers, fries, and a cheesy monster movie. But for both of us it was a day we will never forget—the day God blessed us with our first daughter.  And before it was all said and done—He would bless us two more times with two more daughters and later with eight grandchildren.  That is incredible. And what’s more incredible?  The next day, the pastor asked me to speak on the radio and give my testimony for Baptist Men’s Day.  I’m sure that longest day was part of what I said that day and God used that to launch me—us— into the ministry of pastoring.

So, when you have your longest day, keep in mind a couple of thoughts.  First, every day is created by the Creator God.  His Word says tells us that this day, every day, is a gift that He created just for us.  How about that? And if we will allow God to direct our steps in that day, we will not only endure—we can thrive.  I know it seems sometimes that the finish line—the prize, is always just out of reach—but it will come if we keep on.

Paul was one of the writers in the New Testament and he knew a whole lot about long days.  He may not have known about the labor pains that produce babies, but he did know a lot about the kind of “labor pains” life can sometimes send our way. He said, “Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.” The bottom-line is don’t give up—don’t quit.  And by the way, even if you are not a Jesus follower, that is still good advice.  The farmer gets the harvest if he keeps working the field.  The good news is that God is just waiting to help you through every day, including your longest day.  He is right there and mark it down, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Treasure or Trash

You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17

I hardly could believe my eyes.  It was a bright, warm morning and I was on my way to school.  This particular day I decided to walk and since it wasn’t that far it wasn’t a big deal.  Our house had been enveloped by one of those newfangled suburban sub-divisions consisting of dozens and dozens of near alike houses.  The shortest way to school was to cut between two of those houses so…I did.

On the other side of my cut-through was a cul-de-sac—a street that ended in a circle—one way in and one way out.  As I emerged from my path and stepped onto the pavement—I saw it.  There, clearly in someone’s trash, was a blue ten-speed bicycle. It was about twenty yards from where I was and from there—it looked brand new.  My bike wasn’t that old but it only had three speeds and what was that compared to ten? I decided to do a “fly by” before I left the scene so I turned left and strutted over.  I didn’t touch it, I didn’t pick it up, I just took a quick look and determined one thing right then. If by some miracle this treasure was still there on my way home from school it was going home with me.

All the way to school I could think of nothing but that blue bike and the more I thought about it—the bigger and better it got.  My day dreams only continued to grow as I spent my day at school. I was dreaming about how great it would be to have a new ten-speed bike. I just couldn’t wait to clean it up, check the tires, and take off.  Well, as soon as school was over, I started trekking home and toward that blue bike. So, soon I was back in the neighborhood, back on that street and heading toward the cul-de-sac. As I neared the place where the bike was,  I looked, and it was gone.  No, just kidding, it was still there.

I immediately went over, picked up the bike and started toward home.  As I walked, I began to look and it was about then that reality set in.  You see, the fact was that the bike was not nearly new.  There were parts missing and parts broken.  The tires were flat, cables that were supposed to shift those ten speeds were either missing or a mess.  The bottom line was this.  It became quickly apparent that there was a reason why the blue bike was in the trash.  The reason?  It was trash.

You might be wondering how I was able to see one thing when the reality was totally different. You might be wondering how I could see treasure when in fact it was trash.  Well, the answer is really quite simple.  We all see what we want to see.  When I saw the blue ten-speed bike, my discontentment with what I had quickly grew.  What I had seemed to be so much less than what I saw—or thought I saw.  Only when I got what I thought I wanted did I realize it was so much less. So.Much.Less.

This is a big truth. Often what we don’t have, what we can’t have, what we shouldn’t have just naturally looks bigger and better than what we have. Sadly, we don’t realize it till we have thrown away the better for the bad.  It is true in careers, it is true in friendships, it is true in marriages and it is true in a hundred other situations. Stop and think how much regret and remorse we have to own because we chased something that we thought was better than what was in our hands.

Our world can easily become one of mirages and not reality so be careful what you chase.  Remember the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. It probably just appears that way because that is what we want to see—and believe. One of God’s big ten makes it clear—we shouldn’t covet.  Put another way—we should be satisfied with what we have. So, if you are walking down the road and see a blue bike in the trash, you might want to think it though carefully before you take it home. A second look, a pause, might save you a ton of regret. Need a second opinion, I know just where to go…my Dearest Daddy. He will know just what to do…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Me and Fred

For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.” 2 Peter 2:21

The same kind of different as me. It was 1965…I was about eleven and he was probably 18.  I’m not sure how we bumped into one another.  As I remember it, I was out in the field that was part of property and he rolled up in his golf cart.  Well, hey, that was an ice breaker if there ever was one. He gave me a big smile, a friendly wave and said, “Hi.”  I could tell from that first hello that Fred had a speech issue and later it became apparent that he was one of God’s special creations…someone the world would call broken but God would call absolutely perfect.

Despite the age difference and his perfection and my lack of it, we seemed to hit it off. Almost immediately we were off on the first of many rides in his golf cart.  He loved it and I loved it and even though it wasn’t meant for off the road…that is exactly where we went. I assume his family bought him the golf cart to help him get around the neighborhood. I believe he lived in a subdivision, a gathering of the nicest homes in the neighborhood, at the end of the road I lived on. I don’t know if he was living there or visiting there but for the time I knew him…we were buds.

There are a lot of things that I have forgotten about that summer and early fall but there is one thing I remember—Fred loved baseball.  I’m pretty sure the team didn’t matter as long as it was baseball. He would carry around a portable transistor (that’s a throwback for my older readers) and we would listen to the games together.  It was September and time for the World Series, and we would sit in his golf cart like it was a front row seat right there in the stadium. Even now that memory makes me smile. In our simple world…all was well.

I think I began to learn something that summer and that lesson was about us—all of us.  In the world today we seem to search for things that cause us to focus on what divides us…what makes us different instead of what can draw us together.  I know it made no sense for Fred and I to be friends but his ultra-cool golf cart and his kind and outgoing personality overcame whatever differences there were.  He was the same kind of different as me.  That sentence is the title of a book and movie about two men who came from totally, and I mean totally, different backgrounds and yet managed to forge a friendship that would last for the rest of their lives.

You see, the truth is we can overcome our differences.  Our decision to allow skin color, language, social and economic differences, religion, or politics to divide us is a choice not a destiny.  This is especially true for Jesus’ people.  As followers we are choosing to align ourselves with Him and love others…regardless.  Really.  It is true.  It is in the Book…all over the Book and when decide to let the Book, and the Jesus of the Book, call the shots…well it is a game changer.

I’m thankful for that summer of 1965. If you know anything about that decade you know it was more than turbulent.  People were wondering if we as a nation would survive.  Well, by the grace of God, we did.  And guess what?  We can survive this mess today but if we do it will also be by the grace of God and Jesus people who decide to act like Jesus. Peter, the guy in the Bible who fell flat on his face and denied Jesus said, “For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.”  In other words, we are called to be like Him.  No matter how difficult that might sound to you, don’t forget that today and always—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

Daddy’s Babies

Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.” 1 John 4:11

Daddy had eight children and a whole lot of babies.  I was always amazed that Daddy and Momma had eight children.  I’m not sure they ever figured out what was going on, but I sure am glad it took them as long as it did!  If they had stopped a little sooner, well, I wouldn’t have made the cut. In the Taylor tribe we all know they were striving for perfection, and it just took a while—you know the whole saving the best for last thing.  Honestly, and not kidding, maybe too they knew that the things that really matter in life can’t be found in a store.  Maybe they realized that family, and lots of it, was better than fancy houses and nice cars.

Well, like I said, my Daddy had lots of other babies besides the ones he and Momma gave names too.  You see, my Daddy loved flowers.  He loved his amaryllises, and he loved his bromeliads. The first he would carefully cultivate and sometimes even guard.  I remember he had a beautiful all white one that someone actually dug up and stole from our yard.  He was not happy.  The bromeliads were placed under the large oak trees we had and needed just a little care…until the weather changed.  Since it was north Florida, it didn’t happen often but sometimes the temperature would drop near freezing and when it did, the call always rang out, “Dewayne, you need to bring in the bromeliads”.  That meant carrying each pot into the breezeway or garage to protect them from the cold.  They were scratchy and heavy but all that didn’t matter.  He had to protect the babies.

His most favorite babies also needed the most care.  They lived in the backyard in a large diamond shaped garden.  It was his prized rose garden.  I can’t remember exactly how many lived there but it was probably a couple dozen or more.  These did have names and three that stick out in my memory are Mr. Lincoln, Peace, and Tropicana. I do remember that across the backyard these needy, sticky, bushes rewarded him and us with beautiful blooms throughout the growing season. But…they were needy.

Daddy would come home from work about four, have a cup of coffee with Momma in the backyard under the tree and then see what the babies needed.  Sometimes, often actually, there was pruning to do.  I know regular flowering bushes get “deadheaded” but that was much too common for Daddy’s babies…they were always pruned. They also frequently needed to be sprayed with an insecticide.  It seemed bugs liked his roses as much as he did. Then, about once a month they needed to be fertilized.  He would go from bush to bush, adding a small cup of granular fertilizer and then work it into the soil and pine straw that nestled at the base of every bush.

All that was pretty much left to the expert eye and care of my Daddy but there was one thing that often fell to me.  I would come home from school and soon Momma would say, “Dewayne, Daddy wants you to water the rosebushes before he gets home.”  Now I need to be honest and say that is not something I wanted to hear or do.  The water hose needed to be placed at the base of each bush and the water slowly, and I do mean slowly, allowed to seep into the dirt.  It easily took an hour and a half to complete the task and whining or not…I did it.  One, Daddy said to do it and that was probably the biggest motivation but there was another.  I was helping take care of something he loved and that was important too.

Well, eventually, I grew up and moved away, Daddy went to be with Jesus, Momma sold the house, and a lot of the babies were left behind.  I’m sure some were taken and moved but others were just gone…all but the memories of a man who loved his babies and loved his kids.  Looking back, I appreciate now those hours moving the hose from bush to bush.  Looking back, I realize it wasn’t about watering bushes…it was about honoring him and pleasing him.  It was about loving what he loved.

Did you know that is a lot of what serving God is all about?  You see, God loves this old, broken world…always has and I always will.  He loves each of His “babies” and longs for them to come into relationship with Him by faith in His Son, Jesus.  He has even asked us to “water the garden” by sharing that good news with those around us who don’t know Him yet. I know it can sometimes be scary or maybe inconvenient. It might even be we figure some of them just aren’t worthy of His love and forgiveness. Well, the truth is that would be all of us because we are all broken and messed up but that never stopped God from caring and loving us.  And because He loved us…we should love others.

In His Book, John wrote and said, “Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.” So today, why not look for a way to “water” someone’s life with a little love, a little grace, and a little kindness.  That would make Him smile.  And He is just waiting to help you.  Daddy showed me how to water his babies and our Dearest Daddy will do the same.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, Integrity, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Get a Job

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15

It was time to go to work. It may sound out of date…and maybe it is but I was counting the days till I turned 15.  Not because I was eligible for a learner’s permit, not because I was on the edge of moving on to high school but because, wait for it, I could get a work permit.  You see in Florida when you turned 15 you could get your social security number and get a work permit and…work.  I was ready and I had an in.

Sue Lovell was a neighbor who lived catty-corner from us at 6008 Carlton Road.  She lived in one of the nicer homes in the sub-division that had surrounded us, and we lived in our “used to be” army barracks.  I can remember Sue well.  She was a little different but at the same time very kind.  Well, she worked at this small restaurant called the Village Oven and she offered to try and get me a job if I wanted.  Well, I wanted and next thing I knew I was hired.

My job was not working on a computer or running a business and making life changing decisions. No, I started by serving people…sorta. Looking back, it probably was a little challenging especially for someone just getting their feet wet in the working world.  First, I was the busboy which meant it was my responsibility to clear all the tables. As soon as someone left, I rushed out and cleaned the table.  Second, I was the dishwasher which meant I scraped the plates and then loaded and ran the commercial dishwasher that was tucked out front under the counter.  Of course, I also unloaded the dishwasher and made sure there was a constant supply of plates, bowls, glasses, and silverware.  But wait there is more.

I was also head of the cleaning crew—which consisted of—me. After our customers left, I was to mop the restaurant floor and clean the bathrooms. Looking back, it seems that besides the cooking and waiting, I had my hands in just about everything.  There was always plenty to do…time passed quickly, and it taught me responsibility. I was beginning to get the feel of helping and serving others. The best part of the job, of course, was getting paid.  My hours varied from a few to a lot, and I made a whopping, jaw dropping seventy-five cents an hour. Since this was about 1969, I suppose that was a fair wage and that seventy-five cents went a long way.

I can remember my largest paycheck was around $23.  It must have been during the summer, and I worked somewhere over 30 hours.  I always felt a little rich when I got my check, but that week—I felt more than pretty rich—I felt like Mr. Rockefeller. There is a certain pride in a job done well and getting paid “certificates of appreciation” as Rabbi Daniel Lapin calls them.  Most of us call them dollars and they did make me feel appreciated.  I can’t remember exactly how long I worked at the Village Oven but I worked long enough to appreciate the value of bringing home a paycheck.  I worked long enough to spread my wings a little and fly the friendly skies of growing up.

I’m grateful to Sue Lovell for helping me get the job and I am grateful that my Momma and Daddy drove me the six or seven miles to work and picked me up…sometimes late at night.  I know now that often it is the small things that people do that should and do get stuck in our memories.  It is also the small things that can make a big difference later on.  My first job taught me about serving others, commitment, responsibilities, respect for my bosses, and teamwork at an early age. I can’t measure the entire value of that work experience, but I know I sure learned a lot about how the adult working world operated.

God gave us work even before sin came along.  He knew the value of a man, woman or young adult getting their hands dirty.  He knew the value of working and making a difference and while it may seem hard at the time, the benefits can last a lifetime.  Genesis, the first book in the Bible, says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” The God who made us knows what is best for us.  I’ve heard it said that we should bloom where we are planted, and I think that means caring for the garden around us too.  If you find yourself a little overwhelmed with this work thing or any other thing, just ask God and He will lend a hand…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Chatting With the Father

And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” 1 Kings 19:12

“What was that, again?”  We had a winter storm and though it wasn’t as nasty as they said it was going to be it was still more than enough to warrant staying off the roads and in the house. Turns out, it was a two day in the house deal.  Well, we had an invitation to go eat dinner with a couple on Friday night, but it looked like the weather was going to nix that.  Another good friend was invited to go and frankly, I was disappointed when it looked like it wasn’t going to happen. She wasn’t sure the roads would be safe. I mean, this was one of those good invites…great friends and great food.  So, my wife Judy and I were thrilled when she called and said it looked like the roads were going to be clear enough…so Friday night we were off and running.

Judy sat up front and I was in the backseat.  Our friend owns one of those Toyota off road things…you know, the kind that would be at home in a safari in Africa so trust me the roads were not going to stop us.  I told her we should go four-wheeling before the night was over. Smile. So, anyway, soon we were on our way.  Now, her vehicle may be made to conquer Africa, but it is not made for conversation…especially for those in the backseat.  I was content to just ride but several times a question or something came from the front seat, directed my way.  The result was a “Huh,” or a “What?”

You see, first, I do have some hearing loss.  There are some frequencies that I hear perfect and some that I just don’t.  Usually, questions from my wife fall in the latter category.  Second, her Africa eating vehicle had those tires that like to sing…loudly. Third, there was a pretty good portion of wind noise and finally, I was in the back seat, and they were in the front seat facing away from me.  The bottom line, there wasn’t going to be a lot of conversation…at least not any that involved me.  It was true going…and it was true coming home. All that was fine by me except when it was a question requiring an answer and then well, we were back to the “Huh,” and “What’s.”  I must confess it was just a hair frustrating.

I wasn’t surprised…with that much interference a person with good hearing would probably have struggled.  You put enough interference out there and nobody can hear anything.  That is true with people and wait for it, it is equally true with God.  I believe in prayer…not the wish list kind but the kind where I get to know God better. I believe in prayer…the kind where I can chat with my Dearest Daddy.  No, it is not formal, but it is respectful.  The one thing I forget too often is that it is a conversation, going both ways.  I do the part of me speaking very well…I just don’t do the part of me listening as well.  Sometimes I forget that He probably has more to say to me than I do to Him.  How interesting.

Another thing is that interference thing.  Just like my experience in my friend’s “over the river and through the woods” vehicle, so too often there is plenty of interference between me and my Father.  Yesterday’s sin and failures, today’s plans and worries about tomorrow all tend to speak loudly in my mind and heart and if I am not careful…drown out His voice.  You see God often is more of a whisperer than a shouter and trust me His whispers are worth hearing. One time, He was talking with one of His prophets.  There were all kind of big things going on, a fierce wind, fire, and earthquake and yet God didn’t speak through those…instead, He whispered.

So let me encourage you to take the time to get away, get quiet and get still.  When you get there have a chat…not filled with big and flowery words but words from a sincere heart spoken directly to a Dearest Father who loves you more than you can imagine.  Then be sure and give Him a moment or two speak into the conversation.  Listen carefully for He might speak softly.  He will whisper His love and probably just assure you that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Family Working Together

How delightfully good when brothers live together in harmony!” Psalm 133:1

I’m not sure how it happened…but it did.  I’ve said it several times, but we were not the richest family on the block…at least if the measurement was money in the bank.  I’m still amazed how my Daddy and Momma pulled off raising us and providing so richly for us.  And I mean that.  While we weren’t rich in terms of money, we were blessed with a good, solid, salt of the earth family. And we were blessed with two parents who were creative enough to make it all work.  And that is the keystone word…work.

Daddy was the kind of Daddy who got up and went to work…every day.  He would carpool out to Jacksonville Naval Air Station, put in a solid eight hours in a jet engine shop that didn’t have the luxury of air conditioning.  Keep in mind this is in North Florida…home of humidity and sweat.  After work, he would often come and work some more.  Daddy was a worker.  Momma was too.  She kept the Taylor ship shipshape…washing clothes, cleaning the house, cooking, and doing about a thousand other jobs.  While she was mainly a homemaker, she did occasionally take on outside work to help the budget.  Sometimes that was a traditional job—and sometimes it wasn’t.  This time it wasn’t.

I suppose she read it in the paper or heard it on the radio or saw it on television.  However, it happened, I just remember, it did.  The phone company was looking for people who would deliver phone books (remember them?) to all the people who had phones—and that was just about everyone. So, Momma signed us up—notice that us—and we soon found ourselves in the delivery business.  You need to know that not only did everyone have a phone and therefore they needed a phone book…there were a WHOLE lot of someone’s.  Oh, and when you have a big city with a lot of someone’s, you have a very fat, very heavy, phone book.

So, on day one of the big adventure, we went to the pick-up place and picked up a zillion phone books.  Our vehicle at that time wasn’t a pickup truck or even a station wagon.  Our car was six or seven year old Plymouth four-door sedan and we stuffed that poor car to the gills with phone books. The trunk was full, the back seat was full, the floorboard was full and even the front was full.  To this day I can remember that Plymouth squatting down in the back till it almost dragged the road.  So, with Momma at the wheel and us three little ones wedged in somewhere, we started delivering books.  Momma would start down a street, and we would jump out (or maybe fall out) of the car, grab an arm full of books and start dropping them at people’s homes.  Again, most people had a phone, but I am sure that some people who didn’t still got a book.  We soon figured out the sooner the books were gone, the sooner we could go home.  And sooner was definitely better than later.

It was crazy hard work and as best as I can remember the money went to help the family.  It was family helping family and that was a good thing.  It seems we did this more than one time but maybe not. But what I do know is I treasure that special memory that I have of Momma and us working together—adventuring together.  I am sure we looked like Ma Kettle and her kids but who cared?  I know we didn’t.  Sadly, stories like this one are slow disappearing.  Families working together and working it out together are giving way to lives too busy to be families.  It has been said that the family that prays together, stays together.  I also think it can be said that the family that works together, strains together, pulls together, “adventures” together…stays together too.

Way back in the book of Psalms, the Bible says, “How delightfully good when brothers live together in harmony!” I know that is speaking about people in general, but isn’t that what families are…ordinary people doing life together? I hope this encourages us in this busy world to be family and do life together…whether it is work or play…or worship.  And speaking of worship, there’s no better place to be family than at church.  And when you get there, listen carefully and you will hear His encouraging voice saying, “Don’t worry…I’ve got this.”